Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trump Talks Turkey

Doesn't he have business ties to the country?

"In blow to US-Turkey ties, Trump OK’s arming Syrian Kurds against ISIS" by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Missy Ryan Washington Post  May 09, 2017

WASHINGTON — .... The Turkish position has created a dilemma for US military officials, who see no viable alternative force in Syria capable of and willing to mount an assault on the Islamic State’s final stronghold. Already, the YPG has received air support from the United States and, indirectly through Arab fighters, some US weaponry.

Neither the Trump administration nor the Barack Obama administration before it had made any secret of its intention to give the Syrian Kurds a primary role in isolating Raqqa leading up to the planned offensive. Defense officials have said repeatedly that such a role would require direct weapons shipments and upgrading the equipment provided to move through what are expected to be vast minefields and other obstacles leading into Raqqa.

Better watch where you step.

Turkish officials have privately acknowledged that the matter appeared to be decided. But they have continued to complain publicly about what they framed as a counterproductive US strategy that amounted to enlisting a terrorist group to fight another terrorist group.

The U.S. does it all the time. They create the very enemy they claim to fight, and then use them as cover to advance other geopolitical goals.

Trump is expected to officially inform President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his decision Tuesday, when he visits the White House. To soften the blow, senior administration and military officials have been in near constant contact with their Turkish counterparts to assure them the Kurds will not be part of the force that enters Raqqa and will not dominate the establishment of a new local government. That force, US officials have said, will be comprised of the Arab fighters who are part of the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces.

Turkey has charged that the political wing of the YPG has moved in behind the SDF forces who have taken territory from the Islamic State across northern Syria and forced out Arab and Turkmen populations. Their goal, Erdogan has said, is to create a Kurdish canton. 


Turkish forces moved into northern Syria late last year, ostensibly to fight the Islamic State, but equally to ensure that YPG forces did not consolidate their control of the border. Erdogan has said that he will now send his troops, and Syrian rebels fighting with them, to Raqqa, eliminating the need for the United States to depend on Kurdish forces.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking earlier on Tuesday, suggested the United States hoped to continue some sort of military partnership with Turkey in Syria.

‘‘Our intent is to work with the Turks alongside one another to take Raqqa down,’’ Mattis said during a news conference in Denmark. ‘‘We’re going to sort it out, we’ll figure out how to do it, but we’re all committed to it.’’

Mattis would not elaborate on the possible Turkish involvement or if that meant Turkish troops would enter Raqqa. ‘‘NATO allies stick together,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s not to say we all walk into the room with the same appreciation of the problem.’’

That's where my print ends and it looks like a joint effort at this point. I believe it is as I have been saying: a deal has been cut and everyone is going to get there chunk of Syria (Iran will be frozen out) as a greater Kurdistan is created.

The White House decision comes as Turkey ramps up its military operations against PKK and YPG fighters in Iraq and Syria. Last month, Turkish warplanes launched assaults on Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, killing more than a dozen people, and prompting a public condemnation from Washington. In the latest airstrikes, on Tuesday, Turkey said that it had destroyed ‘‘PKK terrorist camps’’ in northern Iraq, according to Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu News Agency. 

Washington has no standing to criticize when it comes to civilian dead via airstrikes.

Currently, the SDF troops are locked in a pitched battle with the Islamic State around the Syrian town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River. US officials have championed the fight there as a key part of the operation to retake Raqqa and an example of the group’s prowess.

The US-backed campaign against the Islamic State is just one of several parallel conflicts unfolding in Syria after more than six years of civil war.

It was not immediately clear whether the decision by Trump means the YPG will receive heavier weapons, including anti-tank missiles and armored vehicles. Both are likely to be needed if Kurdish troops are to successfully penetrate Raqqa, well fortified by Islamic State militants....


According to the Globe that is the only thing going on in the world.


"Almost two shiploads of migrants, 245 in total, were feared dead in wrecks in the Mediterranean Sea, United Nations officials said on Tuesday. The death toll represents a major increase in an already grim tally this year. More than 1,300 people are now estimated to have died so far this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, most while trying to reach Italy from Libya or Tunisia, according to the International Organization for Migration. Last year, 5,098 people died that way. The two recent shipwrecks occurred on Friday and Sunday, though details about the extent of the loss of life were not released until Tuesday. Tens of thousands of people — 43,000 so far this year — continue to brave treacherous waters to try to reach Italy. It has become the major route for people fleeing war and poverty in North or West Africa, and in some cases farther east. In contrast, the flow of migrants across the Aegean Sea, from Turkey to Greece, has significantly slowed — though not entirely stopped — since Turkey and the European Union reached a deal in March 2016 to try to contain it...." 

That could change at any time now.

"Syrian troops shift focus to IS-held east" by Sarah el Deeb, Associated Press, May. 10, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's military launched a new assault Tuesday aimed at reasserting its authority in the east of the country, battling U.S.-backed opposition fighters in the remote desert near the borders with Iraq and Jordan. The government forces' ultimate goal is to insert itself in the fight against the Islamic State group in the oil-rich region.

The government offensive came as the Trump administration announced it would arm Syria's Kurdish fighters "as necessary" to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation, but is strongly opposed by key NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Syrian Kurdish group, known as the YPG, as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency raging in its southeast.

The decision is likely to complicate the way going forward, as the U.S. has deployed additional troops to act as a buffer between Syria's Kurds and Turkey along the country's northern border.

Slowly being sucked in, 'eh?

Dana W. White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump's authorization of arms to the Syrian Kurds gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to "equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS" in Raqqa. The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which also includes Arab fighters, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria.

Right, it is his signature on the orders.

The statement did not specify the kinds of arms to be provided, but other officials have indicated that 120mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

Tuesday's offensive in the east opens another front against IS, this time pitting the U.S.- and Western-backed rebels against Syrian government forces and allied fighters. The clashes are part of a race for control of an area that stretches from the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour in northeastern Syria to the border with Iraq, where an estimated 10,000 IS fighters uprooted from Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, have been massing.

In other words, the U.S. and West support the very terrorists they claim to be fighting.

"Now the direction and main goal is to reach Deir el-Zour," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday, adding that the Syrian government's next target will likely be to reach the border with Iraq. "The priority now is what is happening in the desert, whether south, along the border with Jordan, or in the central desert or toward the borders with Iraq."

The declaration was coupled with an aggressive Syrian state media campaign against the U.S. presence in neighboring Jordan, where an annual U.S.-Jordanian military drill known as "Eager Lion" was taking place. About 7,400 troops from more than 20 nations were taking part in the drill, Jordan's state-run Petra news agency said.

The invasion got called out in my war pre$$!?!

Syrian government forces have kept a presence in Deir el-Zour— most of which was taken over by IS in 2014— holding onto an airport there at a high cost. It will not allow Western-backed rebels to turn it into some "rival power base or source of reserve leverage," said Sam Heller, a Syria expert with the Century Foundation.

"I don't think a U.S.- and Jordanian-backed rebel offensive on Deir el-Zour is imminent, or even really viable. But Damascus and its allies nonetheless seem to view it as threatening and unwelcome, and they're probably happy to preemptively undercut it," Heller said.

Syrian media were rife with reports about an imminent Russian-backed Syrian military operation in the east. The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said the Syrian army and its allies have completed the first phase of an operation aimed at securing the Syrian-Iraqi border, advancing some 45 kilometers (30 miles) and seizing an area that puts government forces between IS and the rebels.

Western-backed Syrian rebel groups have made quiet advances against IS in the large swath of desert south of Palmyra and west of Deir el-Zour, along the border with Jordan. A rebel faction known as the Eastern Lions responded to the government advance by moving west and attacking a government-held military base. 

The Eager Eastern Lions? C'mon!

"It is a race to Deir el-Zour," said Tlas al-Salameh, the commander of the Eastern Lions, which is backed by Jordan and the U.S. "The Iranian and Hezbollah militias are in the operation because it concerns them to secure a land route from Beirut to Iran that goes through Damascus and Baghdad, and they want to block our way to Deir el-Zour," he said.

Omar Abu Leila, an exiled activist from Deir el-Zour, said retaking the provincial capital will not be easy. Even if the government forces manage to push the rebels aside, once they reach the city they will face an estimated 10,000 IS fighters defending their "last fortress."

But opening a new front against IS might speed the extremists' defeat. "The fight can't be only in Mosul and Raqqa. It must be on the Deir el-Zour front as well," he said. "The three fronts distract IS."

A triple pincer.


When is the parade marking the end of the war?

"At parade, Putin calls for alliance, with few allies by his side" by Neil MacFarquhar New York Times  May 09, 2017

MOSCOW — Russia rolled out a rather subdued version of its annual Victory Day parade Tuesday, with President Vladimir Putin calling for international cooperation in fighting terrorism even though foreign leaders had mostly stayed away.

In his 17 years as the leader of Russia, Putin has gradually made Victory Day the most important holiday of the year, tying his presidency to the national unity, sacrifice, and centralized authority required to defeat Nazi Germany.

He's the Russian George W. Bush?

“The lessons of the past war call on us to be vigilant, and the Russian armed forces are ready to counter any potential aggression,” Putin said, after some 10,000 troops paraded and 114 pieces of equipment — by official count — rumbled across the cobblestones of Red Square. 

Primitive Russians, ha-ha. Gonna be easy to beat them in a war. Don't even have asphalt yet!

Despite Putin’s call for cooperation, the parade served as a reminder of just how isolated Russia has become, particularly in light of strained ties with the West over a variety of issues, including the 2014 crisis in Ukraine and accusations of election meddling.

In whose eyes? 

Oh, NYTs. 


Just one foreign leader stood in the reviewing stand amid the ranks of Russian officials and military veterans: Igor Dodon, the recently elected pro-Russian president of Moldova, a former Soviet republic. In past years, the annual parades have been attended by the leaders of China, Germany, and the United States, among others.

Oh, really? Which U.S. leaders attended? They must have been Russian puppets.

The parade marked the 72nd anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, during which the Soviet Union lost more than 20 million people, and Putin used the occasion to call for an effective fight against “terrorism, extremism, neo-Nazism, and other threats.” 

I don't want to rewrite the history of WWII here; however, it is important to note that D-Day wasn't planned until after the Russians began rolling up the Germans and threatening to take the whole of Europe. Then Churchill and Roosevelt had to do some fancy dancing to save western Europe.

In a sign of the constant menace that terrorism poses to Russia, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement Tuesday denying that the Islamic State group had killed one of its servicemen in Syria. All Russian troops in Syria are “alive, healthy” and at work, according to the ministry statement.

Victory Day military parades in major Russian cities are followed by marches of ordinary citizens carrying pictures of relatives who fought in the war. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, take part in the tribute to the “Immortal Regiment.”

In one discordant episode widely reported on Russian state-run television, clashes broke out at memorial services in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and in at least one other Ukrainian city, between those marking the holiday and local nationalists opposed to Russia. 

Those "local nationalists" are the current generation of what were once Nazi collaborators.

Speaking in Kiev, Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, noted that this would be the last year Ukraine celebrated Victory Day in tandem with Russia. Next year, it plans to move the holiday to May 8, when it is marked in much of Europe.

Poroshenko accused Russia of using the holiday to celebrate its military incursions into Ukraine. The Kremlin has long denied that its military is directly involved in the fighting there.

That Russia celebrates Victory Day a day later than the rest of Europe reflects tensions at the end of the war that have never quite receded; many in the country feel it was insufficiently recognized for the sacrifices made to defeat the Nazis.

That feeling is certainly true over here. It's all D-Day saved Europe from the Nazis stuff. Russia an afterthought.

“There was not, there is not, and there will never be a power that could defeat our people,” Putin said at the main parade after row upon row of soldiers had marched past in tight formation.

Can't occupy the place, that's for sure.

Russian state television also showed parades from across the country. To emphasize the military’s continuing involvement overseas, units at the Hmeymim air base in Syria, Russia’s most significant new base outside its borders since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, were shown marching in their own Victory Day parade.

The Islamic State released a video Monday that it said showed the beheading of a Russian intelligence officer whom it accused of spying in Syria. The footage, published on SITE, a website that tracks the movements of radical groups, identified the victim as Captain Yevgeny Petrenko, 36, who it said had infiltrated Islamist militant groups inside Russia, in the northern Caucasus and in Kazakhstan, before trying to do the same in Syria. 

That means it is bullish**.

Thousands of militants from Russia and its former republics have gone to Syria, and Russia has vowed to fight them there rather than at home.



"A problem in Germany: Pro-Nazis in the military" by Melissa Eddy New York Times  May 10, 2017

BERLIN — The initial case was bizarre enough that it was hard to know what it meant: A 28-year-old German Army lieutenant was caught posing, improbably, as a Syrian refugee. But when the incident turned out to be part of an elaborate scheme to frame migrants in a terrorist attack aimed at top government officials, the investigation widened.

OMG, they stumbled upon the German GLADIO!!!

First one barracks was searched, then another, turning up Nazi-era military memorabilia that pointed to a larger problem some had long feared, and which some commanders are now accused of sweeping under the rug: far-right extremists in the army ranks.

The military police in Germany are investigating 275 cases involving accusations of racism or far-right extremism stretching back six years, according to the Defense Ministry.

Christine Buchholz, a member of Parliament from the opposition Left party, said, “Now it is glaringly obvious to everyone that this problem has existed for a long time and poses an immediate threat to people,” she added.

Ask Italy.

The revelations, in the middle of an election year, have set off sniping between the civilian and military authorities. They have also added a disturbing new dimension to Germany’s effort to address a surge of extremist activity since the country took in nearly 1 million refugees in 2015.

As Europe faces a range of challenges — including the rise of populism and the propaganda machine of President Vladimir Putin of Russia — concerns about Germany’s soldiers have raised broader questions about whether and how the country can step into a leadership role.

I have to thank the pot-hollering-kettle New York Times for providing me with so many laughs each morning.

The episodes are among several dozen displays of far-right extremism, xenophobia, or anti-Semitism that military officials investigated last year at the request of the Left party, which has long insisted that far-right sympathies in the military were part of a wider societal problem....


"US risks a backlash for its growing role in Syrian conflict" by Zeina Karam Associated Press  May 10, 2017

BEIRUT — In only a few months, President Trump has almost doubled the number of troops in northern Syria.

After he campaigned as a non-interventionist in Syria.

Tuesday’s decision to arm the Kurds is a public rebuff to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a week before he meets Trump in Washington.  

Pretty bad timing.

The dispute could ignite more fighting between Turkey and the Kurds as they gear up for a major operation to liberate the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, with US troops smack in the middle.

The growing US involvement in Syria’s civil war stands in sharp contrast to the caution adopted by former president Barack Obama and has alarmed officials in Damascus and its backers in Tehran.

The buildup of forces in the north has raised speculation of longer-term US ambitions in Syria and concerns about a more permanent project. Under Trump, the Pentagon has made quiet, incremental additions to troop levels in Syria.

Images of US troops in armored personnel carriers with American flags maneuvering down rural roads in northern Syria spread quickly on social media, triggering alarm in a region where there are political sensitivities about the footprint of US troops and fears about occupation forces.

In a crowded battlefield like Syria, the growing US presence brings a greater risk of confrontation with competing players.

Also concerned about the growing US presence in northern Syria is Iran, which has bankrolled the presence of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen in Syria to bolster Assad’s military and is seeking to secure a land route from Beirut to Tehran that goes through Damascus and Baghdad. Iran views the prospect of permanent US bases in Syria with a high degree of unease....

Maybe their new leader will not:

"The political atmosphere before this year’s election on the surface seems relatively free and open, in part to ensure that many Iranians turn out to vote for a set of strictly vetted candidates. But the candidates still provide significant choices, compared with elections in many other countries in the region...."

Huh? Their elections are more open than ours?


So who is talking permanent U.S. bases in Kurdistan, 'er, Syria?

"Turkey threatens military action against U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters" by Kareem Fahim Washington Post  May 10, 2017

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, which had an increasingly testy relationship with Washington toward the end of President Obama’s term, has repeatedly expressed hopes of warming ties with the Trump administration. In a news conference Wednesday, Erdogan said Turkey’s ‘‘patience has ended.’’

He's as disappointed as the rest of us, and no mention made of the attempted coup or anything.

Speaking to reporters in Vilnius, Lithuania, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Turkey was ‘‘the only NATO ally’’ confronting an insurgency on its own ground, and he vowed that the United States would work closely with Turkey to defend its southern border.

But the Trump administration has left Ankara with few options other than intensified military action against a Kurdish force that Turkey considers a ‘‘direct national security threat,’’ said Ufuk Ulutas, the foreign policy director at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, a government-friendly think tank in Ankara....

I'm told the U.S. is not going to ‘‘appease Turkey.’’ 


I'm also told "any further military action could also potentially complicate the offensive on Raqqa." 

"US defense secretary, in Lithuania, reaffirms commitment to NATO" by Gardiner Harris New York Times  May 11, 2017

PABRADE, Lithuania — If a shooting war ever breaks out between Russia and the NATO alliance, it could well be in a place like Pabrade, a little town near the edge of a little nation. But a different sort of conflict, waged with bytes rather than bullets, is already being fought here.

Jim Mattis, the US secretary of defense, visited this Lithuanian town Wednesday to see how NATO is faring in that fight, and his guide was a German officer who has been a target in that war, falsely accused of being a rapist and a Russian spy.

“What’s the spirit of your troops?” Mattis asked, walking past camouflaged tanks as soldiers with green-painted faces stood at attention.

He was assured by his guide, Lieutenant Colonel Christoph Huber, commander of the German battalion that recently took up station here, that morale could not be higher.

Same on the Russian side.

Huber and his soldiers have been the subjects of two recent cyberattacks: false claims of wrongdoing that officials believe were put in circulation by an increasingly aggressive Russian intelligence operation that is meant to sow doubts and resentment of NATO’s growing presence in the Baltics.

I'm not believing this NYT slop anymore. Nothing but anti-Russian hatred.

The first attack came Feb. 14. E-mails sent to the president of the Lithuanian Parliament and various media outlets falsely claimed that German soldiers had raped a girl. The story rippled through the country before the police determined it was untrue.

A few weeks later, another series of e-mails circulated with what seemed to be photos of Huber among a group of Russian partisans. The photos were faked.

What, they been taking lessons from the CIA?

Then, in early April, came a phony story about a supposed chemical assault on US troops in nearby Estonia, which appeared mysteriously on a popular Lithuanian news site.

They “don’t know for sure who was behind it,” but I think I do.

Darius Jauniskis, director general of Lithuania’s intelligence agency, and other Baltic leaders have been warning their counterparts in the West for several years about the growing menace they saw from Russia. Their warnings were often dismissed as alarmist. But after the apparent Russian efforts to influence elections in the United States, France and elsewhere, no one needs convincing any more.

What do you do when the newspaper repeats and repeats lies?

Raimundas Karoblis, the Lithuanian defense minister and other Lithuanian officials said they were hoping for a promise from Mattis for a permanent US military presence and a Patriot missile battery to bolster the country’s air and antimissile defenses.

The alliance is expected to conduct a large air defense exercise in Lithuania in July, and Pentagon officials have said that a Patriot battery could be moved into the region as part of that exercise, but that the deployment may be temporary....

It sure looks like they are getting ready for war with Russia and China, using Korea and the Baltics as excuses to move their missile defense systems into place.


Oh, look, the Globe finally noticed Afghanistan.